This is my first Mother’s Day without my mom. I miss her! Our children miss her tremendously also. Mother’s Day was also called “Bunka’s day” in the Boland home, Bunka being the pet name the kids had for Mom. Every Mother’s Day, as soon as church was over, our family would make the 20-mile pilgrimage to Hollywood to surprise her with some goodies. Mostly Mom just wanted to see her four grandkids again.
Our Lord brought Mom home last December, only 6 weeks after she was diagnosed with Stage IV liver cancer. As much as it was a blessing for her to go quickly, it was hard on the kids, who never expected her to be gone so quickly. I remember sitting on the couch with Kim after school and telling our children that Bunka had died that day. It’s amazing how God makes our children so different! Same mom and dad . . . but very different kids. Brock just stared off into the distance. Jenna and Katie cried. And after thinking about it for several minutes, the Tank said, “It’s OK Dad, Bunka is with Jesus!” I am writing this through a veil of my own tears.
So many memories flood my mind. I remember that I never came home from school to an empty house. You see, Mom held the most important job in the world: being a stay-at-home mother. She was always waiting for my brothers and sisters and me to come through the door. I couldn’t wait for that afternoon snack of cookies and milk! I loved to dip the cookies in the milk before shoveling them in. Then I was out the door to play until supper time. When I was late coming home for dinner I always had a great story for her. Mom would always respond with, “Someday, my son, you will be either a politician or a preacher!” Well, we all know how that turned out!
I must confess that my memories of supper are not quite as fond as my after-school memories. It’s because of those dreaded peas! I didn’t like peas back then and I don’t like them now. I never could figure out why peas seemed to go with just about everything we ate! Mom would always say two things: “There are starving children in Africa who would love to eat those peas,” to which I would think—but never say—“Then why don’t you send these peas to those starving children so I don’t have to eat them!”
When the distress in Africa failed to motivate, she would follow up with these words: “If you don’t eat your peas, you won’t get dessert.” This was serious, because I loved dessert! I would take a deep breath, shovel them in and wash them down with my milk. Yuck! But dessert always made me forget the taste of peas and milk. Mom made the absolute best homemade desserts . . . from pies to cookies to puddings to Jello with fruit in it.
Once I started playing sports—and I played most of them—Mom never missed a game. She always on the sidelines, cheering me on. Looking back, it seems like Mom always knew just how to cheer me up after a loss. Instead of the usual snack at home, she would have Dad stop at a 7-Eleven to get one of those “Slurpee’s” (a flavored frozen drink), which was my favorite drink in the world at the time. When I went away to Florida State, Mom never missed an opportunity to call and check in on me. On every return trip home I was greeted with a handshake from Dad and a huge hug and kiss from Mom.
The next fifteen years after college is a blur. Mom was so proud of me when I was hired by the Hollywood Fire Rescue Department in 1982 and just as proud when I walked away after 9 ½ years to follow my dream and open the Total Wellness Fitness Center in 1991.
Kim and I started dating in 1990. Shortly after I brought her to meet my parents, Mom told me, “My son, it seems like you are robbing the cradle!” (Kim is 9 years younger than I am.) After we got past that hurdle, Mom was excited to hear that we wanted to get married and start a family.
Mom became my hero in 1991. After a stroke left my father paralyzed on his left side, confined to a bed and wheel chair, Mom refused to let him stay in the nursing home; she brought Dad home to care for him. The next four years nearly killed my mom, caring for Dad with help from my younger brother, Bobby, who moved back home.
Because Dad was a WWII veteran, he would spend two weeks a year at the VA Hospital. So for 50 weeks each year, Mom was his personal nurse 24/7. She told me early on that it was like caring for a 185 pound baby. But that would change dramatically over the next four years, as Dad withered away. When our Lord took him home in 1995 on Christmas Day, he only weighed about 85 pounds.
Kim and I married on March 6, 1993; Mom was so happy! That mother/son dance at our wedding . . . what a powerful memory! The year after Dad died, our first child, Brock, was born. As happy as Kim and I were, Mom might have been even happier. We would bring Brock to “Bunka’s house” a couple of times each week. She absolutely loved taking care of him. Brock seemed to bring life back into Mom after the toll that the years of caring for Dad had taken on her. Mom would be angry with me if we missed a scheduled time to bring Brock to visit her!
Man, I miss my mom! Two years after Brock, God gave us Jenna. Four years later, we were blessed with Katie; two years after that the Tank (Zack) arrived. Mom was in her glory, rotating from one grandchild to the next. From December 28, 1996 to December 12, 2013, Bunka could not get enough of our kids and they could not get enough of her.
I have so many memories of “firsts” with the kids and Bunka . . . their first step . . . their first birthday . . . their first sleepover . . . their first Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. . . . the first (well, only) broken bone, when Brock fell out of the high chair at Bunka’s, who never could forgive herself (I still have the cast!) . . . . their first grandparents day at Westminster Academy . . . their first ballgame . . . the first tooth that came out for “the tooth fairy” (Bunka) to reward. I could go on and on. We were all hoping for the first graduation with Brock, but God had other plans. But as Tank said so well, “It’s OK Dad, Bunka is with Jesus.”
Wow! This was medicinal for me to write out some of my memories on this first Mother’s Day without Mom and share them with you. It is my prayer that this will be an encouragement and a comfort to all of you who are spending Mother’s Day without your Mom.
If Mom were still here today, we would have driven down to Hollywood after church. When she finished greeted the kids coming through her front door with “You are all growing up so fast,” I would have paused—instead of racing to the refrigerator to get a snack as I most often did—and looked deeply into her eyes. And I’d tell her one more time, “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I love you with all my heart and I thank God for giving me such a godly mom.”
Man, I miss my mom! But Tank is right. Job said, “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25) . . . and I know that Mom is with Him now. She had placed her trust in His atoning death on her behalf—she place her faith in Christ and Christ alone—and I know that Kim, my children, and I will see Bunka again. So I grieve, but I do not grieve as one who has no hope.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!